Culture

The shifting landscape of femininity: Attitudes & approaches to hair removal

Despite the unseasonably mild weather of late, winter is drawing in, marked by the emergence of long layers and winter coats. However, for many people who identify as women, duffle-, bomber- and trench- aren’t the only coats that emerge from winter wardrobes.

For those exhausted by the relentless hair removal that summer (and society) demands, winter and its long layers can be an opportunity to loosen up on shaving, waxing and plucking, and breathe a collective sigh of relief.

Of course for many women the winter brings no change to their body hair routines. Many continue to diligently remove their hair across the winter months, others don’t bother in the first place and sport a year-round fuzz.  

Women’s body hair routines are as idiosyncratic as the women themselves. 

However, for years the pervasive message communicated to women about their body hair has been that it is unsightly, establishing a singular standard that smooth is always best, all the time. Female body hair is historically so taboo that shaving adverts consistently (and paradoxically) demonstrated razors being used by women with perfectly smooth legs.

That was until US-based razor startup, Billie, bucked the trend this summer by launching a celebratory campaign featuring the hairy armpits, stomachs, legs and toes of a diverse group of women in a reminder to the viewer that “everyone has it, even women”. In the context that almost one in four millennial women* report to not shave their underarms, it’s unsurprising that the advert went viral and that similar brands, such as FFS in the UK, are appearing in parallel.

The fact that the Billie campaign was so extensively picked up by UK news outlets when the razor is only available in the US, and that it is still being written about today, shows just how disruptive the advert has been, something that will be a major boost for the brand as it expands. Proponents including Serena Williams and Drew Barrymore will further help.

A strong moral code is central to the Billie brand, and goes some way to explaining its successful accumulation of supporters. The product itself was conceived from a desire to create high quality, fairly priced products in a bid to eradicate the ‘pink tax’ experienced by women shopping the personal care category, providing a reason to believe that neatly aligns to the surge of interest in women’s issues in recent years.

As well as benefiting their customers, the brand also aims to positively impact women more generally, donating 1% of revenue to women’s causes. Personal choice is at the heart of the campaign, “however, whenever, if ever, you want to shave, we’ll be there”, validating the idea that there is no ‘right’ approach, and helping to evolve the dialogue around beauty more broadly.

Positioning hair removal as a personal choice and something that can be approached in myriad ways helps liberate women from an aspect of their personal care routine which can sometimes feel like a chore. We’ve heard in our conversations with women that many are frustrated by the time they feel obliged to spend on hair removal, energy that they’d prefer to channel elsewhere.  

Increasingly women are seeking means of freeing themselves from the cycle of hair removal. For some the right choice is a more intermittent or less comprehensive routine, for others longer-term and even permanent hair removal, such as IPL, is right for them. They key is that the decision is based in a dialogue that promotes diversity and choice, a message which is resonating with women.

Billie is one example of a trend occurring across many categories, where challenger brands are shifting the needle on the products, services and messages aimed at women. Echoing and amplifying the changing perceptions of their audiences, Billie and its counterparts are exploiting niches while managing to not be exploitative, helping to redefine femininity, and the categories they play in.

Watch the Billie campaign here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P4DDpS685iI

*Source: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/05/18/rise-young-women-going-au-naturel-nearly-quarter-now-dont-shave/